Within the past few years, women have participated in job sectors more than ever. However, ‘Mechanic Rabbi Apa’ is an exception to it all. Breaking fences in the field of mechanic and automobile workshops, Rabeya Sultana is the only female mechanic working for CARE Bangladesh.
Started from the bottom but she’s here
Rabeya Sultana Rabbi could never attend her S.S.C examination. Growing up with extreme poverty, Rabeya Sultana learnt to take care of herself from a very young age. Her father could barely afford for his eight-member family.
The young drop out student is now earning approximately 550 dollars per month and she can comfortably afford for her husband, her young son and her parents as well. Her husband was very supportive throughout her journey and helped her pursue her career by co-parenting.
Rabbi Apa’s journey
Rabbi Apa initially started training as a driver with other female members, but she was not confident enough to drive around highways. She then took the decision to take up her career as a motor mechanic.
In an interview with Arab News, she mentions how girls in Bangladesh hardly come to a profession which is heavily dominated by men in general. However, she has always been as a kind, friendly and hardworking employee. Selim Sheikh, manager for transport at CARE Bangladesh mentions how proud he is of her. She took in the knowledge of a motor mechanic in a short period of time. He also mentions how she is always enthusiastic to learn new techniques.
Rabeya dreams of opening her own garage in her hometown and give chances to others to pursue their career with motor mechanics. She wants to help her son achieve her dreams, and help him succeed in life.
May we have more Rabbi Apas help the society construct itself into a positive space for all women.
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Have you ever wondered what goes inside the mind of a serial sex offender?
People don’t wake up one fine morning and think, “you know what, let’s try to molest someone today.” No, they build up an appetite for such behaviors through years of internalized, devious narratives. Like Ted Bundy, they work on gaining the trust of the people around them, making sure that no one else notices when they indulge themselves.
Perhaps, these offenders feel that they are entitled to behaving like this because they are good looking, charming and/or belong to certain strata of society. Most of all, they do this because they feel like they have the power in such situations.
No two sex offenders are alike. However, most sex offenders are experts in rationalizing their behavior. They often commit crimes in situations where sexual violence is more likely to go unpunished. Trying to fit an accused sex offender into a typical profile is also foolhardy, because, in all honesty, no such profile exists. Ted Bundy, for instance, was not only an A student but also someone who volunteered for his university’s suicide prevention centre. Does that sound like a typical serial rapist and killer?
Why we need to stop accepting excuses
In the recent spate of allegations, several victims have mentioned how the perpetrators used their position and organizational power to both coerce women for sexual favors and also to evade scrutiny when official complaints were raised. They have engaged in actions that border on the verge of paedophilia. Only a small percentage of survivors ever come forward. If the accusations are this grave, then you have to wonder what else has been done that will never see the light of day.
Some of the perpetrators have used their (allegedly) frail mental states as an excuse for their behavior. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, let me be categorically clear: anxiety or any other kind of mental illness does not give you license to be a sorry excuse for a human being. Nothing does.
Sexual harassment survivors rarely come forward, but when they do, they find a litany of obstacles blocking their way to justice.
There is victim blaming, yes, but there’s also fence sitting, stonewalling and gaslighting.
These are the reasons why Me Too still hasn’t picked up pace in places like Bangladesh. Instead of diligently investigating accusations, matters are swept under the rug. We shame the victim, accusing her of not keeping quiet about her shame. Sometimes, close relatives also blame the victim for speaking out in the first place.
On the other hand, a bevvy of options is made available for the accused. We create excuses for the individual. “He didn’t mean it. He was young. He was misguided. He can get better.” We refuse to indict the accused, while mounting piles of evidence continue to grow. But then again, does evidence really matter when the “she was asking for it” mantra still reigns supreme?
Why sex offenders go free
Only 2% of rapists are convicted. It’s not difficult to see why that’s the case. Of course, rape and molestation aren’t the same things. But they stem from the same mindset: the kind of mindset that objectifies women to the highest degree. And they aren’t alone: in closely knit communities, they are often aided and abetted by various kind of facilitators.
One recent survivor recounted in her Facebook post how others helped the accused in getting her alone in a room, and how afterwards, many tried to persuade her from taking the matter to the authorities, because ‘it would make life difficult for her’. This kind of gaslighting is shocking but not entirely surprising.
Legal recourse is rarely pursued, and even when it is, the onus is on the victim because the benefit of the doubt goes to the defendant (which, in this case, is the accused). And that kind of doubt can be easily created. Gina Tron of Vice wrote about her own assault story, discussing how the defence attorney used photos and drawings from the Internet to construe that Tron liked ‘rough sex’. Her case was eventually thrown out, because “they apparently thought I hadn’t fought back enough and I wasn’t bruised enough and I didn’t go to the police soon enough.”
With such a bleak outlook, it’s no surprise that so many survivors choose to remain silent. They have to put their reputation on the line, with so little to gain. It’s fortunate, then, that brave souls still come forward in the hope that other’s do not face the same fate.
On the other side of the coin
Of course, not all accused are equal. Some are, in fact, wrongfully accused, but historically, that number has proven to be very small (2-8% of all accusations). There is a danger that Me Too accusations can destroy a person’s life before he/she can dispute the claims made against him/her; however, in most cases, the accuser has much more to lose by coming forward.
Making sure such events do not happen again is no mean feat, and makes for a conversation that’s best left for another day. But it’s a conversation that we need to have frequently and more often. Otherwise, these stories will continue to slip through the cracks.
While some are still educating themselves on the idea of sexual consent and how it can be minimized to a level where there is control over these issues, the recent uprise of survivors of harassment is taking a toll on certain communities of the society.
It is important to realize that sexual preferences followed by harassment, has become a case which is often not given enough priority to, which leads to misinformation and rise to similar problematic behaviours.
Why the #metoo and #talkaboutit failed to beam
minimization on sexual harassment
Given light to many cases of sexual assaults and non-consensual incidents from the entertainment industry to communities as important as debate events, have shed light to the people that even the safest places may bring about cases like these. The idea of understanding how sexual harassment does not only limit to non-consensual penetrative sex is necessary to be known. The idea of hiding behind curtains about cases like these forms more problems in further investigation, however, it’s important to realize that the rate of socially educated members of our society is very less in number.
Facebook itself is an open platform which single-handedly gave space to both the survivors and common people to view cases and bring forth their statements about cases like these. However, as said before due to the lack of understanding of the degrees of sexual harassments, often survivors are forced to delete their confessions and stories because of fear of being misunderstood furthermore.
Often many forget the true message of what these movements hold. The idea is to shed light on the existing rape culture and everything surrounding that idea. The motive is to degrade the predators and bring justice to the cases in order to avoid scenarios like these and bring more caution to people. The cultural and social construction of women coming out in one word brings lojja in the family as the stigma in our country keeps pushing these cases in the box.
Lack of understanding
“#metoo in Bangladesh shouldn’t be just about calling people out, it should include forming and updating institutions that are equipped to dealing with these complaints. It’s equally important to understand the cases and analyze them from a logical view point given the facts are all being said to light”
Says Antara Islam, an International Relations student from Dhaka University.
The lack of
responsibility from the respective institutions, groups and head of events
raises a question of partial judgement. It is evident that often cases like
these when addressed takes time to be judged however, only empathizing with the
situation should not be the only way to address cases such as this. A diplomatic
stance on serious harassment or any sort of non-consensual cases is an
unprofessional approach and often problematic for the victim.
The art of consent and why it is important now than
Let us first understand that there is no single definition to identify and understand the concept of consent. There should be three ways to approach this which are affirmative consent, freely given consent and capacity consent. It is crucial for us to analyze and ask ourselves if the person expressed affirmative responses to the action. Further questions follow if the consent was offered from the point of free will, without being induced with fraud, violence or compulsion.
Not only that, it is important to keep age, the idea of intoxication, physical and mental disability and most importantly the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator is also highly necessary to keep in regards. Consent itself is a step by step process let that fact be known because a simple ‘yes’ does not open doors to every action. As the recent allegations from many debaters who have faced harassments and became victims of non-consensual acts, it is evident that cases like these will happen despite the knowledge and full understanding of what sexual harassment is, because the idea of consent, often times becomes a blurred concept many still lack to grasp.
The time is now
The rise of confessions of cases like these on the internet shows us how important it has become for survivors to speak their truth.
Bangladesh has already been stamped a label which is hard to remove but not impossible. This is our time to address the toxic movements of non-consensual acts masked by casual approaches by the perpetrator.
For the proper safety of women, it is important to not only address the situation rather take actions for proper justice. Cases like these needs observation, legal approach and most importantly acknowledgement. It is time for us to rise to the movement, yet again.
At first, when I was told to write about Nusrat, I was very keen on doing it. I was very eager to voice a wave of scream towards all the men and women who are defending the rapist. I was excited to talk about the girl who, with a body 80% covered in burns, wanted justice. She used what little breath she had left to demand justice.
Justice for all the time she’s been molested. Justice for all the time that pervert Siraj-Ud-Doula got away with it, not just with her, but with plenty other people before her as well. Justice against all those puny perverts who grew to power under his careful guidance. Justice for all the blatant abuse of power for personal gain and coverage.
How many of us can say the same for
ourselves? How many of us stayed strong in the face of adversary, threats and
in the end, literally death?
The culture of denial
Remember how I said, just a few moments ago, that I “was” keen on writing about Nusrat? I am not anymore.
We are straight-up denying the rape culture that’s been nurtured within our society for as long as I can remember, or for as long as my mother can remember, or even for as long as my grandmother can remember. We think marriage is a ceremony where the father hands over his autonomy upon his daughter to another man. We believe women owe men their body whenever, however, wherever they ask for it.
So we end up getting triggered over something as basic as a t-shirt that says “don’t stand too close”– because who’s a woman to tell a man where he can or can’t stand? Isn’t a molester’s freedom to let their body parts roam far greater than the discomfort and molestation of a woman?
The blame game
Then comes the part where we are blaming “no-orna” for rape, then we are blaming not wearing hijab for rape, afterwards, we are blaming not wearing burqa, and then lastly, we are blaming Bollywood for rape.
Seems like we are blaming everyone
and everything but the rapist for the rape.
This is rape culture.
When we are victimizing the
criminal and criminalizing the victim, that’s rape culture.
When we are presenting reasons
behind a rapist’s intention, we are stating the rapist’s action as reasonable-
and that’s rape culture.
When we try to demean a man for
stepping up to his peers against their sexism by calling him gay, impotent,
trans. pussy, not a man– that’s
Well, think about owning an alpha male cat. He will litter on your bed, or on your study place (wherever you spend the most time in) to prove he’s the number one of the house, not the other way around. Not because he couldn’t find any other place to litter, not because he had sudden diarrhoea- because he needed to assert dominance.
It’s the same with rape, or as we educated people like to call it
A toxic society
When someone has to force themselves onto someone else (usually vulnerable individuals of the society- females, or young boys), it means they’ve been denied their dominance over their prey at first. And in a patriarchal society, where dominance equals to power and strength, being denied means being weak, being defected (ladies, that’s why all the men you said no to think there must be something wrong with you or them to be rejected, not because you have free will).
Sometimes when I’m talking about
this (who am I kidding, most times) I feel so tired as if I’ve been battling
the Hydra for centuries, like two heads are sprouting from where I slayed one a
moment ago. That’s not even completely metaphorical- you’ll know what I’m
talking about if you just give the comment sections of these news a go. Or if
you talk to any stranger on the road. The number of people saying “not all men”
is far greater than the number of those actual men.
But then again, we think
non-consensual sex and rape is different. Maybe we deserve this toxic, dying
out society after all.
The term pink tax may sound harmless to many. But it is the root of all the discrimination existing in the system that is alone a barrier to the progress we think our society has made towards establishing equality. But what exactly is a pink tax? A generic definition would say:
“The pink tax is a phenomenon often attributed as a form of gender-based price discrimination, with the name stemming from the observation that many of the affected products are pink” – Wikipedia
For people who have little or no idea about this weird tax that weirdly connects to gender discrimination, it can be a little too much to take in.
Pink tax is basically an unfair price hike for products that are used by women.
We all know how the wage gap is still a thing worldwide and how women are perceived as the ‘less efficient’ gender. And then capitalism says hi as it always does in crisis and suggests an illogical pricing strategy for corporations to wipe off their bank accounts with products that have the same utility as men’s.
The actual scenario
There has been a lot of research on the pink tax that found that overall, women were paying more than men 42% of the time. How much more? About $1,351 more a year in extra costs. This may sound a bit weird but we have all been paying this pink tax to sanitary napkins as well. Even some years ago, sanitary napkins were considered as ‘luxury items’ and a handsome amount of tax was imposed on it. Later, word went out and the tax was said to be removed from it but companies still sell it with higher prices with no logic behind it.
Why are we paying more?
It is found from multiple research that products for women are priced higher even though it serves a very neutral purpose. From makeup to hygiene to clothes and even toys, anything pink or feminine is pricey. Companies are known to have a phrase for justifying their price on a product that goes like ‘Shrink it and pink it’ – which implies the product can have a higher price if it is pink and small. Research and development, following trends, meeting trends, advertising products on television and in magazines are not cheap. Companies are willing to spend more money advertising to women than they are toward men, contributing to the price discrepancies.
The average expenditure of a girl will always be higher than that of a man not because girls are always high maintenance, but they are charged more than they should have and there’s not much they can do about it.
Old Navy got busted for charging more for women’s plus-sized clothing but not for men’s. The plus-sized women’s jeans were $12-15 more than the standard sized ones. But there was no such difference between the prices of men’s plus and regular sized jeans.
Pink tax in Bangladesh
Till date sanitary napkin is considered a luxury cosmetic item in many parts of Bangladesh. Majority of the sanitary napkin prices range from BDT 70-145/pack. It is difficult for a girl to spend this amount of money for sanitary napkins each month especially where the average income of the family is below BDT 10,000/month. Apart from sanitary napkins, from shampoos to cosmetics to clothes, men’s shopping isn’t as expensive as women’s shopping. Even female oriented services e.g beauty parlors, salons are taxed differently than male oriented services. Recently, there have been some active discussions about this tax issue and people have demanded to demolish the ‘luxury item’ tag on sanitary napkins for start. When will it be implemented, or will it ever be? We don’t ‘pink’ so.
The real cost of Pink Tax
In general, even though women pay 13% more than men, but paying more for sanitary napkins and daily hygiene products doesn’t seem fair to many, because obviously it isn’t. For a country like Bangladesh, girls will have to resort to sanitary napkins for better hygiene and convenience but if the price remains as it is with the purpose being taxed, they may or may not consider their right to get basic hygiene as ‘luxury’. So, even if our country will be progressing nevertheless, a major portion of the contributors to our national GDP won’t be able to enjoy empowerment at a basic level.
So what could be done?
We can raise awareness among shoppers. The advice we could give women is to think outside of the aisle. In so many instances, there are equivalent products being sold for significantly less in the boys’ or men’s section. The onus should be on manufacturers to price goods fairly—but consumers should know that they have a choice: The red scooter is just as good as the pink. And if consumers find a case of gender pricing disparity, it is always possible to start a dialogue with the retailer.
Huq addressed some of the major issues that the garments industry of Bangladesh faces in her victory speech. She stated “all the time people continue saying that Bangladesh is the country of cheap labor. Cheap is not good, but competition is good. We need to change this narrative of Bangladesh.”
Moreover, she understands that several small factories face the threat of being shut down. She emphasized on the need to stand beside them during such times. She plans on tackling such problems in her tenure. The voters resonated with her powerful vision for Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s garments sector is often under scrutiny by the Western media, especially around issues about low wage and abuse. However, Huq adds perspective and highlights inaccuracies in these negative campaigns. She aims to fix these issues and improve the image where the reality is better than it is being portrayed. She hopes to encourage better practices in pricing, introduce more innovation and policies for sustainability.
Huq, an exemplary person
Apart from being a celebrated entrepreneur, she is also a prolific writer, a poet and a philanthropist. In 2013 and 2014, she was in BBC’s list of 100 outstanding women. Her accolades include wining the SAARC literary award in 2006. She has also launched a literary magazine called Monsoon letters along other Bangladeshi writers.
Rubana Huq has actively worked towards empowering women– advocating for women’s economic independence, voicing challenges regarding female garment workers rights. She hopes to bring her perspective and provide solutions to improve women’s conditions. Over 5000 women work in factories managed by Rubana Huq; and believes that these women are slowly changing their own narrative through their work. Always humble, she acknowledges that there is still a long way to go. Most of these women are still not truly emancipated in their own lives, but the work continues.
Striding forward in a male-dominated
More often than not, women have lived in the shadows of men. We can see glimmers of hope in moments like these. Bangladesh’s cultural norm and practices continue to limit the capabilities of our women-especially when it comes to advancing to positions of authority. Rubana Huq has often spoken at length about the challenges in being a woman and paving her way in this industry. Often, she has felt alone and powerless in her journey, but we are very fortunate that she managed to cross the hurdles that she encountered.
Women like her are gradually changing the narrative for working women in Bangladesh.
each and every woman in Bangladesh is fighting in some way or the other to move forward. As more women are in positions of power, attitudes both at home and the workplace will shift.
She is truly an inspiration for all of us. Here’s to more women being in positions of power and striving to improve women’s lives collectively. We look forward to a day where a woman attaining a leadership position in Bangladesh won’t be the reason behind headlines everywhere, but rather it would be the norm.